when elements attack- lead poisoning update

March 14, 2011

Did you see? Did you see what I did up there? Yep, I pulled out the big guns and called this sucker what it is– an official case of real ol' fashioned lead poisoning. I had been pussyfooting around about calling it that, in part because I didn't want to make a huge deal out of it and in part because I was in denial. But I guess it's about time I get used to our new reality, the lead poisoning reality, because according to the numbers that's exactly what we've got. Whether I like it or not.

home inspection
As mandated by the Health Department we had a team of their lead experts come and inspect the house last week. A three man crew came and spoke with Jon for over an hour. Two testers ran around the house zapping every surface with their magic lead-detecting guns and taking samples. Our caseworker  interviewed Jon to get a feeling for what might have caused this– what's our daily schedule like? where does the Jude spend his time? That kind of thing.

We won't have the official results for 7-10 days. More waiting. We'll receive a report that lists the exact location and amount of any lead found in the house. Most importantly we'll get the levels that they found in the dust samples. Knowing whether or not the dust is contaminated will be a huge game-changer. In the meantime, these were their preliminary comments: There is lead in the house. Of COURSE there is lead in the house! It was built in 1875! However the majority of it is covered by new paint in good/excellent condition. That makes it safe and not a hazard. There was one room in particular that we had never repainted (only room in the house) that needs attention and until then we've taped the door closed.

What they did say was this– nothing jumped out at them immediately as to be "THE PROBLEM." This is both good and bad. Good because we don't have any obvious sources of lead laying around our house like morons, bad because we still have no idea what is causing it. Our case worker even suggested it could be something random he was exposed to in Nov/Dec, something while we were traveling? Over the holidays? A toy? A nearby remodeling building? So... great that it may {possibly} not be from our house, but also thus far inconclusive. We're to continue with our management techniques until the tests prove otherwise in case it's in the dust.

{They also mentioned that we live in the oldest section of an old old city they visit many homes in our neighborhood, that our house was nice, and not dirty, and very far from the worst they'd had to visit. Completely anecdotal, but well, HELL, it makes me feel a little better. I need all the good news I can get. I made Jon tell me that part five or ten times. In a row.}

done and done.

blood test
We had the little guy's blood drawn again on Monday for a re-test of his levels. Since it had been two months since his last test our case worker wanted to get a more current idea of what is going on. The results are in and his levels have gone DOWN. Party city! They're still on the lead-poisoning spectrum and we still have to start taking him to the city lead clinic for evaluations. However! Down some! Since we only found out about this last week via the failure of our horrible pediatrician that means that they have been going down on their own, without any kind of preventative measures. Now that we are doing everything we can to fight it? We're going to crush that shit, or at least try. This is excellent news. Not in-the-clear news, but hell I'll take it. Not higher is good. Not staying the same is good. If we get below a certain number they no longer consider it an issue and we'll be released from the city's care. I don't want to get into the specific numbers but we're close, very close.

We're scheduled to visit the city lead clinic this week for a our first evaluation. His diet is of paramount importance because calcium and vitamin c help counteract the effects of lead in the blood. In fact, this is probably how he has remained relatively unaffected. Damn kid eats a TON of food, and the majority of it is tasty health vegetables and breastmilk. I've never been more thankful for my own obsessive paranoia about his diet and our commitment to extended breastfeeding. It might be the only thing that's kept him from having lead damage. In addition to regular evaluations they may want to do developmental testing. Though he seems fine and very smart, does problem solving and knows a lot of words this makes me crazy terrified. Could he be even smarter if he didn't have lead poisoning? Have we ruined his adorable brain?

So, we wait. Things are looking up. Sort of. House testing was inconclusive but we should get a better picture of what we need to do when the final results come in. We may never find out what did this if it was an unidentified acute incident in November/December. We'll continue to monitor his blood levels and hope to get below that magic number so we can be released from this nonsense of our own recognizance. In the mean time we spend an hour each day wet-dusting and vacuuming every room in the house and wash his hands every hour.

On a personal level things are confusing. People seem to be reacting to this in one of two ways: either utter horror/worry or complete apathy. Being the mom, of course, I'm on the worrying side. How am I supposed to react to people who don't think this is worthy of concern? Lead poisoning, brain damage!!, visits from social workers, notices sent to the state, seems like kind of a big deal to me. You know those people who are all, "When my kid was a baby they slept on their face and they're FINE, the back-to-sleep campaign is silly!"? Yeah that. Except with lead poisoning. So sometimes I actually feel pretty guilty for being a worrying mess.

I think they are probably just trying to reassure me that they ate straight up lead coated with asbestos as a kid and turned out "fine" but instead it makes me feel stupid, like this is not a big deal. Should I not care? Because too bad, I do! I do care! A lot! As I told my friend, This can't happen to us. We use cloth diapers. And that's not to say we're better than anyone else but just to say that JESUS, we're chemically conscious, additive conscious, harmful stuff conscious kind of parents. Not sitting around letting our kid eat fucking paint. We don't even use commercially produced soaps on him. This is a ridiculous situation.
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